Do you ever wake up feeling completely numb and no thoughts in your head at all? The sun was streaming into the room through the gap in the curtains. I got out of bed and opened the balcony door. The smell of fresh mountain air and the sound of the birds singing greeted me as I stepped outside and took in the view.
I took a deep breath and smiled. But my eyes filled with tears. Damn it. I don’t cry easily. That’s not how today is going to go! A quick shower and breakfast and a look at the map to see where to next have distracted me enough to forget about the tears.
Not far from the b&b was a view point and a panoramic road that looked pretty cool on the map so I decided to go there first despite it being a slight detour from my route today. I’ve decided to just make a beeline to Slovenia hoping mother will be happy I’ve arrived the night before the day I was planning on.
Looking at this map, tell me you wouldn’t have done the same!
What I haven’t realised is that you have to pay to get on the road. Not a problem but something as simple as paying the tool seemed almost too much for me.
There was a ramp across the road and a lady in the cubicle where you pay your money. There was also a machine where you could pay with a card on the side of the road. I figured I’ll park up, get the ticket and be done.
I walked to the machine and followed the instructions. First in German as I figured it’s easy enough even with my limited knowledge of the language. Card declined. Except I didn’t know that’s what the problem was. So I tried again, this time in English. Card declined. The bank has blocked it and flagged it as fraud. But I had hardly any signal on my phone and I couldn’t unblock it via the app.
I walked to the cubicle with the lady inside and ask to pay but apparently I can only do that while sitting on the bike in front of her as she might forget it was me that has paid 3 minutes earlier when I ride past?? I wasn’t impressed but ok, no worries. I went back on the bike, pulled up next to the cubicle, took out my wallet from the tank bag, paid the fee, got the ticket, and she opened the barrier. But I’m not in a car where you just pull away. I had to put the ticket and the money back in the tank bag, zip it up, put the gloves back on and start the bike. No pressure then!
I wasn’t in the best mood so I pulled away with an attitude and starting attacking the corners like never before and overtaking the cars until there was noone else in front of me and I started to calm down, realising I am riding way faster than suitable for the conditions and my skills. I slowed down and took a couple of deep breaths and looked around. I was stunned. The views were incredible, I really wished I had a camera mounted on the bike or my helmet. I parked at the top of the road and just sat there, taking in the views. The weather was still on the cool side, with clouds rolling in but it was dry. I felt the weather was just reflecting my mood and actually made the whole experience even more intense and the views more dramatic. I was at 1,560 meters above sea level!
Stopping at the top and looking at the mountaintops calmed me down and I felt much better. The road was a two way traffic but I wanted to ride all of it so instead of turning around, I proceeded towards Berchtesgaden.
Feeling much lighter and happier I enjoyed the tight bends and was starting to feel more confident as I came around a left hand bend and was greeted by a standing car. Luckily I’ve left my frustration on the other side of the mountain and my speed was more appropriate so I stopped without any need to panic. It turned out a family of mountain goats decided to cross the road and stopped the traffic both ways. That was a very special sight indeed and I wished I could have observed it for longer. But they were quick and bounced off the rocks and into the tree covered area.
I soon found myself in Austria and on a motorway heading south. This motorway was passing high mountains, it wasn’t just going straight and it was incredibly well maintained. You would be forgiven if you forgot that you were on an actual motorway. It was a pleasure riding on there.
I saw a beautiful castle on top of a mountain and decided to stop and see if I could visit. The road to the village followed a river that was crystal clear and pale green in colour running fast over the white rocks and stones. The road to the castle went through a village and I arrived to the car park not long after. The car park was busy and it looked like I’ve arrived at the same time as a couple of coaches full of school kids. There were two ways to the castle, in a ‘lift’ where you had to queue with everyone else or a 20 minute walk up a steep hill. I didn’t fancy either of the options so instead, I rode into the nearby village for a coffee break. The weather has cleared up and it was starting to get hot so a walk up a hill in bike gear was not really an option for me on that day.
Soon I was back on the road and heading towards Slovenia. Sorry Austria, I had no intentions on stopping here for any length of time today. For some reason I felt I just needed to cross the border to Slovenia and I’ll be ‘home’. Which is weird as my home for the last 20 years has been Wales.
There is a huge tunnel connecting Austria and Slovenia that runs under the Karavanke Alps but I didn’t want to ride through a tunnel. My plan was to cross at an old border crossing over a mountain pass where we used to go in a car with mum and dad when we were younger – Korenjsko Sedlo or Wurzen Pass. The road on the Austrian side was pretty shocking, full of pot holes and patched up tarmac which made it a bit of a challenge. It isn’t a long pass and I soon reached to the top. It’s so strange remembering the queues of years ago to go through the customs and now it’s almost deserted. It suited me as I screamed with joy for the first time that day and parked up for a photo.
I cannot tell you how incredibly happy this sign made me. I’ve always wanted a Ducati and to ride to Slovenia on it and I have actually done it! One of those throwaway comments that I always thought were just a dream actually came true! And I’ve done this all on my own. I needed an ice cream!!
There were a few bikers at the top and two Spanish guys came to talk to me. They were asking about my trip and telling me they’ve seen me on an Autobahn in Germany. So I’ve asked “Oh, so you’ve passed me in Germany?” They laughed: “No, you’ve overtaken us!” Bahaha, get me!
Luckily the road on the Slovenian side was much better with smooth tarmac and well maintained. I was heading towards Kranjska Gora.
But I didn’t want to go straight to mum’s in Ljubljana. She was busy gardening and it would only take an hour to get there. I decided I’ll have a bit more of fun and started climbing another pass to Vršič. I remember being a young teenager and staying in Kranjska Gora where we used to go skiing, and parents making us walk up Vršič. I remember moaning and protesting on each corner but always loved getting to the summit where we were rewarded with amazing views and good food.
On this occasion I did go back on myself as continuing on the road would have made my journey quite a bit longer and there were warnings of a closed road ahead.
It didn’t take long to arrive to Ljubljana. The journey to there is always one of mixed emotions. My home town, my birthplace. I love it but not enough to stick around. Each time I come back I am in awe at how beautiful it is but more on Ljubljana on another day.
Mum heard me coming down the lane and the gates were open. She was waiting for me with a camera in her hand. I gave her a biiig hug and after I’ve taken the bags off the bike and had a shower we sat outside drinking wine, snacking on Slovenian Prosciutto and put the world to right.
I could say it was good to be home but the house is not the one I’ve ever lived in so it was good to be at mum’s and back in Slovenia, for sure. And I was still in a bit of a daze at the fact that I’ve made it! I was also looking forward to a few nights in the same bed to relax and rest a little bit.